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Updated on 12/17/2011 8:56PM
Fair Grounds: Chamberlain Bridge regains good form in Bonapaw
After six straight losses – four as the betting favorite – Chamberlain Bridge was moving toward twilight. The horse turns 8 in a couple weeks. Once a claimer, Chamberlain Bridge rose to the top of the sport, winning the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 2010. But as the recent losses piled up, even Chamberlain Bridge’s trainer, Bret Calhoun, wondered whether his horse still had his mind in the game.
Saturday, in the $73,500 Bonapaw Stakes at Fair Grounds, Chamberlain Bridge answered that question in the affirmative. Changing tactics and going straight to the lead under Jamie Theriot, Chamberlain Bridge took a clear lead into the stretch and had plenty left to hold off even-money favorite Country Day, the runner-up in this year’s BC Turf Sprint.
“Not really,” Calhoun said, asked afterward if he had confidence going into the Bonapaw. “We’ve had a rough year with him, really. He was just kind of going through the motions. It was getting to the point where I was starting to wonder if he was going to lay down and run again.”
Racing over a turf course rated yielding but producing typical times, Chamberlain Bridge set splits of 22.38 seconds for his opening quarter-mile and 45.52 for a half while outsprinting Great Mills for the lead after breaking from the outside post in a seven-horse field. The winner put away his pace rival in upper stretch and continued on resolutely to finish one length clear of rallying Country Day, with 30-1 shot Southern Style third. Winning time for the 5 ½ furlongs was 1:03.41, and Chamberlain Bridge paid $8.40.
A War Chant gelding owned by Carl Moore, Chamberlain Bridge now has won 18 of 39 starts while going 16 for 34 in his turf races. Saturday’s victory pushed his career earnings past $1.7 million.
Calhoun said Chamberlain Bridge would be pointed for another turf-sprint stakes later in the Fair Grounds meet.
Cherokee Queen finishes fast in Blushing K.D.
Owner Clark Brewster purchased 6-year-old Cherokee Queen mainly as a broodmare prospect at a Keeneland sale this past November, but Cherokee Queen evidently still has racing left to do.
Rallying wide in the stretch under Shaun Bridgmohan – who had won five races with two left on Saturday’s card – Cherokee Queen nipped Pleasantly Blessed and Bet On the Blue in the $75,000 Blushing K.D. Stakes.
Ravi’s Song, the 4-5 favorite, wound up trapped on the inside – the worst part of the Fair Grounds course – for most of the race, and never kicked into gear, finishing ninth in a 10-horse field.
Trained before her recent purchase by Marty Wolfson, Cherokee Queen now resides in the Steve Margolis barn. Good enough this past February to defeat subsequent Grade 1 winner Never Retreat, Cherokee Queen had tailed off in recent months, though she had faced Grade 1 competition in two of her last three starts.
Racing ninth of 10 for much of the Blushing K.D. as Weekend Party set a moderate pace, Cherokee Queen commenced her rally partway around the far turn, Bridgmohan wisely steering out to catch the best part of the course. Weekend Partly held well to the eighth pole before Pleasantly Blessed caught her, but Cherokee Queen came fastest of all to get up by a neck, with Pleasantly Blessed another neck back in third. Winning time for the 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf was 1:45.23. As the second choice, Cherokee Queen paid $9.20 to win.
Exfactor prevails by nose in Sugar Bowl
Before contesting the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes on Saturday, Exfactor hadn’t raced since July 2, when he won the Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill by 2 3/4 lengths. Exfactor’s fitness might not have been at a peak this weekend, but his heart wasn’t affected by the long layoff. Battling tooth and nail with Laurie’s Rocket through the final furlong, Exfactor came out a nose in front, giving Bridgmohan his fifth win on the card.
A gray Exchange Rate 2-year-old trained by Bernie Flint for Stoneway Farm, Exfactor now ($5) has won 3 of 4 career starts. All were sprints, but Exfactor figures to be given a chance to stretch out early in 2012.
Racing along the fence behind Brown Eyed Jozi’s slow pace, Exfactor came three wide into the stretch to tackle Afford, who had seized command at the quarter pole. Pushing past eventual third-place finisher Afford proved easy enough, but Exfactor quickly faced a bracing outside challenge from Laurie’s Rocket, who just failed to get up. Winning time for six furlongs on a slow-playing track was 1:11.78.
Fast Alex prevails by nose in Tenacious
During the summertime, Fast Alex basically is a horse without a track. His trainer, Greg Geier, has worked in Chicago forever. Summers mean Arlington Park for Geier, but Arlington Park means Polytrack, and Fast Alex wants nothing to do with synthetic surfaces. Fair Grounds is Fast Alex’s real home. The 4-year-old colt has never won a race outside New Orleans, and he captured his fourth victory over the main track there Saturday, taking the $72,000 Tenacious Handicap by a nose over Gleam of Hope.
“We get him down here and he loves it,” said Geier.
The Tenacious had a field of only five, but still was exciting. Robby Albarado had Fast Alex in an apparently perfect position turning for home, in hand and three paths off the fence behind pacesetters Sweetsouthernmoon and Maximus Ruler. Those two had set splits of 24.52 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 48.76 for the first half, and 1:14.10. Despite the measured tempo, the front-runners seemed gassed compared to the easy-moving Fast Alex at the quarter pole, but as Albarado went to the lead, there came Gleam of Hope and Corey Lanerie – last for most of the race - scooting through along the fence. Gleam of Hope took a neck lead at the eighth pole, but Fast Alex battled back, regaining momentum a half-furlong out and poking his nose in front a few strides before the wire.
The stewards lit the inquiry sign because of a stretch bump between the pair, but Gleam of Hope caused it and the results stood. It was more than 15 lengths back to Prospect Knight in third, with Maximus Ruler fourth, and Sweetsouthernmoon last. Winning time for the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track was 1:45.31. Fast Alex, an Afleet Alex colt bred and owned by Jim Tafel, paid $5.20 to win.